WED: Joining the race of connecting people to nature

This year, Rwanda again gladly joins the international community in celebrating the 45th World Environment Day (WED), which culminates in the national environment week that started on May, 26.

Like in previous years, and in partnership with the Government of Rwanda, the One UN Rwanda team has organised and actively participated in diverse activities to raise awareness about the imperatives for protection of the environment.

All the activities are closely related to the theme of this year: “Connecting People to Nature”.

The theme for WED 2017 urges people to get outdoors and into nature, to appreciate its beauty and its importance, and to take forward the call to protect the Earth.

The theme also gives us an opportunity to think about how to be part of nature and how intimately we depend on it for our economic, social, cultural and personal well-being.

In line with this year’s theme, an Umuganda was organised on May, 27 in the project site of the Nyandungu Wetlands recreation and Ecotourism Park in Kigali, which was reclaimed and later restored to savannah and marshland by REMA.

With the project funded by the nation’s own Green Fund (FONERWA), the wetland will regain its value as an ecotourism park, which is both a biodiversity hotspot and a place for recreation for the citizens of Kigali and visitors.

This year again public lectures were delivered to the higher learning institutions across the country on the theme of “connecting people to nature”.

The lectures were well received and enhanced understanding of students and local communities about how people benefit from nature and how they can contribute to protecting it.

How do we benefit from nature?

The term “Nature” often refers to the “natural environment” or wilderness—physical surroundings and wild animals — and in general, areas that have not been substantially altered by humans, or which persist despite human intervention.

It is often forgotten or neglected that the livelihoods of people rely on the environment and the natural resources which provide the basis of economic activities. As also witnessed in Rwanda, poverty reduction and sustainable economic development deeply depend on how well natural resources are managed.

This is also clearly highlighted in the concept of sustainable development which recognizes environment as one of interdependent and mutually reinforcing pillars of sustainable development along with economy and social aspects. .

Nature’s substantial support to humanity and sustainable development is not limited to tangible resources such as water, minerals, land, forests and goods deriving from these resources, but also includes invisible or intangible services provided through natural ecosystems, and the species that make them up, to sustain and fulfil human life and wellbeing.

For example, if the service from bees for pollination of crops were not provided, how many people should a farmer hire to deliver the same amount of the service? These are services that nature is giving us “free of cost”, but that we need to include in our development strategies if we want to sustain these.

While natural resources and ecosystem services provide the basis for economic growth, the tendency has been towards their over-exploitation and degradation. With the projection of population growth of Rwanda expected to double by 2050, the sustainable use of natural resources and ecosystem services will be challenged, and this will be further exacerbated by the impact of climate change.

Not tackling these issues with innovative solutions will eventually put sustainable development in Rwanda at serious risk.

Rwanda’s achievements

Rwanda has been demonstrating its exemplary role in the field of sustainable management of environment and natural resources. In 2011, Rwanda published its “Green Growth and Climate Resilience Strategy”, with the long-term vision of being a developed climate-resilient, low-carbon economy by 2050.

And Environment and Climate Change was well integrated in the National Vision 2020, and the Economic Development & Poverty Reduction Strategy for 2013-2018.

Envisioning these growing needs in the investment for environment, climate change, and green growth, Rwanda’s Green Fund (FONERWA) was officially established in 2012, which is now financing innovative solutions toward a green economy.

And the Ministry of Natural Resources was the very first accredited government institution by the Green Climate Fund (GCF), the new operating entity of the financial mechanism of the climate change framework convention.

Rwanda has demonstrated that the country is capable of leading the international negotiations in environment and climate change. In 2016, Rwanda successfully organised the Africa Carbon Forum and approved and adopted the “Kigali Amendment” at the 28th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol.

Other efforts include the commitment to combatting illegal forestry; restoring vital wetlands; protecting the habitat of endangered gorillas; becoming one of the first countries in the world to ban the use of plastic bags; plant more than 23 million trees under the campaign “Forests, the Source of Clean Air”; upgrading the Gishwati-Mukura forests to the status of a National Park,etc..

And in 2016, President Paul Kagame won the Champions of the Earth award which is UN’s top environmental prize, for being at the forefront of forward-thinking and implementing environmental initiatives to mitigate the effects of climate change.

How One UN Rwanda has supported the nation in achieving its success

One UN Rwanda has been supporting the aspirations and efforts of the government to chart and follow an inclusive, green and sustainable development pathway. Through projects with REMA, pilot green villages have been built and contributed to the sustainable use and management of natural resources in the rural settlements in Rwanda and contributed to poverty reduction.

These benefits have been demonstrated by a recent and rigorous cost benefit analysis on Rubaya green village. The study clearly highlights that the efficiency of the pilot green village project is high when a sustainable, social and long-term perspective is adopted.

Furthermore, the study demonstrates that the up-scaling of such projects, as is now being taken up by Rwanda Housing Authority, will generate additional benefits of US$21 to 23 million after 30 years, will produce indirect economic effects estimated at 0.8% of national GDP (63.3 million USD), and lead to a decrease of 0.71% of the extreme poverty rate of the country.

One UN Rwanda has also worked on promoting a green economy approach with diverse sectors in the country. This include the operationalisation of a centre of excellence on biodiversity, development of policy toolkit on green city and green economy, establishment of two pilot green villages with climate smart agriculture techniques, support to the environmental policing and support to the implementation of the national strategy on Green Growth and Climate Resilience.

With other development partners, One UN also supports establishing a Results Based Monitoring and Evaluation System for the environment and natural resources sector in the country, which will help monitor the progress and evaluate the achievement in the sector under the EDPRS II and the upcoming EDPRS III.

One UN Rwanda is also looking forward to assisting the nation’s aspiration in building capacity in biodiversity conservation through a scientifically assessed finance plan and solutions on biodiversity finance.

Kicked off since 2015, the Biodiversity Finance Initiative (BIOFIN) will assess the country’s current policy framework, budget expenditures and finance needs on biodiversity conservation and provide a comprehensive plan for enhanced biodiversity conservation which will go hand in hand with the revised National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plan (NBSAP) of Rwanda.

Furthermore, the target of a 30% forest cover in Rwanda will be assisted by a new project to be working on the forest landscape restoration in fragmented forests in the southern province.

Continued support

Celebrating the World Environment Day with the Government and people of Rwanda today, we reaffirm our continued solidarity and commitment in supporting the country’s efforts in inclusive green growth beyond EDPRS II.

One UN Rwanda is currently planning its next development assistance plan which will go hand in hand with the upcoming EDPRS III and Vision 2050. As in the past this support will be strengthened by One UN Rwanda team’s leading role and strong involvement in sector working groups of environment natural resource and energy sectors, to mention a few.

The Agenda 2030 with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is now the new global development agenda, and this will require strengthened interventions on environment and climate change, as highlighted by the increased number of related goals and targets in SDGs. Goals 12-15 are dedicated to tackle environment and climate change issues whereas other goals also include indicators mainstreaming the same issues.

This clearly shows that this new era will bring more opportunities to countries like Rwanda which has endeavoured to take active measures on sustainable environment and natural resources management.

One UN Rwanda is committed to support Rwanda in domesticating SDGs, and in implementing its Green Growth and Climate Resilient Strategy and nationally determined contributions (NDCs) to combat climate change, on the way of achieving its goal of being a climate-resilient and low-carbon developed country by 2050.